The Republican Party appears to be maintaining its grip on a longtime legislative stronghold as the initial vote count on Tuesday night showed first-time candidate Larry Hoff with a nearly 2,000-vote lead over Democrat Kathy Gillespie in the 18th Legislative District race.
The count shows Hoff, a retired credit union executive, ahead with 27,623 votes, or 51.85 percent. Gillespie, a former two-term board member of Vancouver Public Schools, had 25,650 votes, or 48.15 percent.
Gillespie said she was proud of the campaign she ran but disappointed with the results. She said she wasn’t ready to concede the race.
“I’d love to see more votes come our way,” said Gillespie. “We’ll see what happens, but certainly the initial results are not what we were hoping for.”
Hoff said he was optimistic that his lead would hold up.
“It was an interesting year,” said Hoff. “I met a lot of exciting folks and look forward to working for them.”
Gillespie, who previously ran against Republican Rep. Liz Pike in 2016, started her campaign months before Hoff announced he was running. She amassed a significant fundraising advantage and a long list of endorsements.
The contest in the sprawling district shaped up to be the most expensive race in Clark County. Both parties and other political organizations took an interest in the race as its outcome could add to the Democrats’ legislative majority in Olympia.
The results of the August top-two primary suggested that Gillespie was in a position to become the first Democrat elected to the 18th Legislative District in decades after she emerged with 52 percent of the vote to Hoff’s 48 percent. The race in the 18th Legislative District became the only open legislative seat entirely in Clark County after Pike, R-Camas, announced her retirement earlier this year.
The other House race in the 18th Legislative District appears more decisive. The initial vote count shows Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Felida, ahead with 29,216 votes or 54.92 percent. Vick’s opponent, Democrat Chris Thobaben, emerged with 23,978 votes or 45.08 percent.